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Journal cover: Journal of Documentation

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Online from: 1945

Subject Area: Library and Information Studies

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Information retrieval (IR) and the paradox of change: An analysis using the philosophy of Parmenides

Document Information:
Title:Information retrieval (IR) and the paradox of change: An analysis using the philosophy of Parmenides
Author(s):Clare Thornley, (Department of Information Studies, University College London, London, UK)
Citation:Clare Thornley, (2012) "Information retrieval (IR) and the paradox of change: An analysis using the philosophy of Parmenides", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 68 Iss: 3, pp.402 - 422
Keywords:Change, Dialectic, Information retrieval, Information theory, Paradox, Philosophy
Article type:Conceptual paper
DOI:10.1108/00220411211225601 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – This paper aims to explore whether philosophical insights from Plato's dialogue “Parmenides” on the complex and often paradoxical nature of change can illuminate the nature of information retrieval (IR). IR is modelled as a dialectic process involving mutually dependent yet conflicting forces between the subjective and the objective. These forces operate to produce change in the subjective experience of users (becoming informed) through facilitating a relationship with objective documents. Accurately modelling, predicting and enabling this process remains a persistent problem for IR and this paper seeks to examine the extent to which this is because of the nature of change.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper is a conceptual analysis and literature review.

Findings – The problem of change (what it is, how it happens and how we can know it has happened) is essential to our understanding of information as information normally implies some kind of change in knowledge state. Any process of change, however, on examination of its qualities, appears to necessitate the combination of irreconcilable and conflicting forces. The apparent contradictions within the existence of change as discussed in “Parmenides” also exist in IR on both a theoretical and a technical level.

Research limitations/implications – Change is a central concept for information in general and IR in particular. A deeper understanding of the paradoxical nature of change can provide new insights into IR theory and practice.

Originality/value – The paper presents a new historical philosophical perspective on the nature of change and applies it to current IR problems.

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